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House task force to investigate claims that CENTCOM manipulated Iraq terror intelligence

By Doug G. Ware
House task force to investigate claims that CENTCOM manipulated Iraq terror intelligence
Iraqi soldiers work at their position during fighting with Islamic State militants in Tikrit, Iraq, on April 1, 2015, a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the weeks-long battle to retake the strategic city from the Islamic State. Photo by Alaa mohamed/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A special task force comprised of three U.S. House committees will look into allegations that certain Defense officials downplayed or manipulated intelligence reports that painted a less-than-rosy portrait of the Pentagon's fight against terrorism in Iraq, officials said Friday.

The creation of the task force follows reports last month in which officials claimed United States Central Command -- the Pentagon's theater-level combat apparatus -- had possibly been censoring analysts' intelligence reports to indicate a greater degree of success against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

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The investigative coalition will include the House's Armed Services Committee, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chamber's Appropriations Committee.

Chairmen serving on each committee -- Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. (Armed Services), Mac Thornberry, R-Texas (Intelligence), and Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. (Appropriations) -- announced the investigation in a joint statement Friday.

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Defense sources told news media last month that military or civilian officials at CENTCOM may have cooked the intelligence to make it appear the U.S. military has been making a greater impact on fighting militants than it really has.

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Reps. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, will lead the investigation -- which will run parallel to a separate investigation by the Defense Department's Inspector General.

"There's an Inspector General investigation -- we don't want to mess that up -- but at the same time we are not going to wait until they conclude," Thornberry said in an interview Friday with Fox News. "This is a very serious matter that we have an obligation to get into."

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Some reports suggested that some CENTCOM analysts even received emails from superiors instructing them to "cut it out" or "toe the line" when it came to intelligence reports that reflected poorly on the military's anti-terror campaign.

"Any accusation of intelligence being altered to fit a political narrative must be fully investigated and those responsible held accountable," Pompeo said in a statement. "This matters both to those who gather the intelligence, often at great risk to their personal safety, and to the policymakers who use this intelligence to make what are often life threatening decisions."

The Defense sources said last month they expected a Pentagon investigation into the matter and that the results could lead to a shakeup at CENTCOM.

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Although the task force is a Republican investigation, Thornberry said Friday that House Democrats are also involved in the probe.

"[Democrats'] staff had been involved in the discussions we have had with a variety of folks from Centcom and elsewhere. So again we want to be careful and do it right," he said. "It's important."

The committee chairmen said preliminary results of the House investigation are expected early next year.

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